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Can Anderson be the answer to Manchester United’s midfield problems?

According to teammate Nani he certainly could be.  Speaking to the Portuguese winger illustrated his belief that Anderson can still yet make an impact as a Manchester United player.

“We all know here that he is an amazing player. He is strong, he is a very clever player too and he can be a very important player in this team.”

Both players arrived at Old Trafford from Portugal in the summer of 2007, yet whilst Nani has become one of United’s most influential players this season, Anderson has struggled to make a similar impact. Injury and a falling out with Sir Alex Ferguson earlier in the year have seen rumours arise about a return to Porto, yet the player, and now Nani, have come out to state that not only is the Brazilian staying, but fans can expect  more of a contribution from the midfielder.

Ever since Wayne Rooney committed his future to Manchester United there has been an assumption that major moves would be made in future transfer windows. It may still be early in the season, and indeed Manchester United  remain the only undefeated team in the league, yet they have fallen behind leaders Chelsea and have yet to look totally convincing as title challengers.

Although it has been Rooney’s lack of form and the team’s defensive frailties that have taken all of the headlines for Manchester United problems this season, the midfield too has not seemed to possess its usual ability to break down teams. One can only imagine that Rooney will eventually play himself back into scoring ways and that the defence will stop conceding in the last ten minutes, but it is hard to see how to midfield can remedy itself. The return of Owen Hargreaves would go a long way to adding a dimension of security in the middle of the park, yet that isn’t where the problem really lies.

Against Stoke last weekend, Manchester United were in control of the match yet they could only muster 3 shots on target, and had it not been for the predatory instincts of Javier Hernandez they would have left the Britannia stadium with their fifth away draw of the season. The team lacked the directness and drive from midfield that would have helped put more pressure on the Stoke goal.

Chelsea’s midfield on the other hand, particularly with the presence of the dynamic Michael Essien, have impressed this year with the ability to get forward and contribute to attacking play whilst simultaneously taking pressure of the defence, resulting in a goal difference of plus 23, compared to United’s figure of plus eight.

Behind the scenes at Old Trafford there seems to be an acceptance that an attack-minded midfielder needs to be brought in. Wesley Sniejder was a target immediately after the World Cup, but he has just signed a 5 year contract with the Italian champions Inter Milan. The alternative would appear to be the young Belgian Stephen Defour, whom Alex Ferguson has been courting for quite a while. Yet Anderson has the potential to fulfil the role that is missing. Whilst he may not have lived up to his dubbing as the next Ronaldinho, the Brazilian has still on occasion proved an important player for the Red Devils. In the 2008-09 Champions League Semi-Final first leg against Arsenal, Anderson was at the heart of a high tempo side that comfortably held the upper-hand, completely outmuscling and overshadowing Cesc Fabregas. He has a physicality about him, and isn’t afraid to take the ball and run towards the opponents goal. With Paul Scholes, currently United’s most creative midfielder, sitting deeper and deeper, Anderson’s willingness to burst forward would be a welcome way of linking attacking moves. Once back to full fitness his presence on the team sheet would signal a faster paced, more direct Manchester United, two of the characteristics that were so prevalent in the team that won the Premier League and Champions League in 2008, and ones that are certainly missing at the moment.

In his four seasons in England he has amassed over 100 appearances for the club, and at times has certainly looked like a player worth the £17.5 million spent on bringing him from Porto. The problem seems to be that these showings have been too few and far between, and issue only worsened following an injury to knee ligaments in a match against West Ham in February, ruling him out for the remainder of the season as well as the World Cup. Yet it was only at the end of last season that Nani, who of course arrived at the same time as Anderson, started to become a consistent performer in a Manchester United shirt. It also took three seasons before Cristiano Ronaldo revealed himself as a player destined for greatness.

This is not to say that Anderson will be able to have as much impact as Ronaldo, but this season, should he recover fully from his injury and settle in a similar timescale to Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo, he certainly has the attributes to add an extra dimension to the United midfield, and perhaps even the potential to become the most important fixture within it.

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1 Comment

  1. Willude

    1 November, 2010 at 19:42

    Anderson is nowhere near ready to replace SCholes. He is lazy and does not have spacial awareness. Tries to play impossible balls when a simple pass would do. Not impressed with him at all

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